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Obama Names GOP’s Gregg for Commerce Post

BY Admin  February 3, 2009 at 3:35 PM EDT

Vice Pres. Biden, President Obama and Sen. Gregg

Gregg, a longtime legislator and accomplished negotiator, has served in the Senate since 1993. Before that, he served two terms as governor and represented the state in Congress from 1981 to 1989.

He was born into a political family — his father, Hugh Gregg, was New Hampshire’s governor from 1953 to 1955.

The 61-year-old senator has a reputation as a fiscal conservative.

“Judd is famous, or infamous, depending on your perspective, on Capitol Hill, for his strict fiscal discipline,” President Obama said when introducing Gregg as the commerce nominee at the White House.

Listen to Obama’s announcement about Gregg:

Gregg has a moderate record on some social issues. He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, has supported funding for stem cell research and has voted in favor of some gun-control laws. However, his record on abortion rights is staunchly conservative.

He also has a reputation as a trusted behind-the-scenes adviser to Senate leaders, according to Politico.com.

“It’s a huge loss for the Senate. His institutional knowledge, political savvy and financial expertise are irreplaceable,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Politico.

In the Senate, Gregg has been the Budget Committee chairman and a member of the Appropriations panel.

Last fall he worked to build Republican support for the Treasury’s financial rescue package, and in January he worked with the Obama administration to build support for a measure to release the second $350 billion half of the package.

And President Obama may be hoping that Gregg will bring some good luck to the new administration: In 2005, the senator won more than $850,000 with a Powerball ticket he bought at a Washington, DC convenience store.

If confirmed, Gregg would join fellow Republicans Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former member of the House of Representatives, in the Cabinet.

Judd could play a key role in selling the president’s nearly $900 billion stimulus package to skeptical members of his party.

“Judd is a master of reaching across the aisle to get things done,” President Obama said of his pick.

“He will be an outstanding addition to the depth and experience of my economic team, a trusted voice in my cabinet, and an able and persuasive ambassador for industry who makes it known to the world that America is open for business,” he said.

“This is not a time for partisanship,” Gregg said of his nomination to the commerce post. “This is not a time when we should stand in our ideological corners and shout. This is a time to govern, and govern well.”

In January, Mr. Obama’s first pick for commerce secretary, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew in the face of a legal inquiry.

Richardson denied any wrongdoing in connection with the inquiry of a California-based financial company that had done business with the New Mexico state government.

Gregg had said he would not take the Cabinet job if it pushed Obama’s Democrats closer to the 60-seat mark in the Senate, thereby allowing them to pass laws more easily. The governor of New Hampshire has signaled that he will fill his seat with a Republican.

If confirmed by the Senate, Gregg would take over a Commerce Department tasked not just with job creation, but also with conducting the 2010 Census. The department includes the Patent and Trademark Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.